American Horror Story: Hotel “Be Our Guest” Review (Season 5 Episode 12)

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On the abbreviated season finale of “American Horror Story: Hotel”– it was originally supposed to be thirteen episodes this season before being changed at the last minute- damned if Ryan Murphy didn’t manage to stick the landing for once, in “Be Our Guest.” If that title brought to mind a certain Disney flick, rest assured, there wasn’t much here that was family-friendly- unless you were talking about the Manson Family, that is. (I half expected Manson himself to show up at one point, actually, but alas, such was not the case.)

The problem with a lot of the season finales of this show is that they either try to cram too much in or they end up leaving one too many loose ends dangling. Oftentimes, the seasons themselves seem to go on a bit long, and pretty much every one of them has some excess fat that could have been trimmed for a leaner, meaner season. While this season was no exception, the finale itself was thankfully quite self-contained, and wisely went for the emotional ending over the spectacle-driven one.

Were there some loose ends? Sure. We never quite got to see what became of baby Bartholomew, for instance. I suppose it’s safe to say that Gaga continues to care for him, but a brief allusion to him would have been nice, at least. And the character of Ramona, who started out so strong with that excellent Blaxploitation-style intro, went out with a bit of a whimper with a spin on the fashion runway, followed by a loaded threat to one of the hotel’s more unwelcome visitors. (More on her later.) Angela Bassett deserved better.

Ditto Gabourey Sidibe, for that matter, on last week’s episode. Why bring Queenie back, just to unceremoniously kill her off? Seems like an ignominious ending to a character that really didn’t deserve such a fate. Then again, they did a similar sort of thing to poor Misty, so I don’t know why I’m that surprised. Such is the way of “AHS”- not everyone gets a happy ending that should and some of those who do don’t necessarily deserve it.

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That said, though, I was pleasantly surprised how many of them did on this finale. I feared the worst for my favorite character this season, Liz Taylor, played with fierce nobility by the Emmy-worthy Denis O’Hare, and while they did go so far as to give her prostate cancer, the show nonetheless did let her go out on her own terms, which was nice.

Offering herself up to the various denizens of the hotel as a sort of sacrificial lamb, in the end, she was liberated by the very woman who helped her free herself in the first place- the Countess. The “other” Elizabeth slit Liz’s throat and sent her off into the afterlife, where not only the ghostly tenants of the hotel were waiting, to allow her to continue to serve as a sort of “den mother” to them all, but also the long-absent Tristan (Finn Wittrock), who made a return after Liz’s death for a triumphant reunion with his object of affection.

We also discovered that the reason he had been laying low was that he didn’t want Liz to die before her time because she still had more life to live- and love to give, notably to her first-born granddaughter, for whose birth she was present. By “AHS” standards, that was pretty darn heart-rending, and kind of bordering on sweet. Nice going, Murphy and co.

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After that, the whole business with John was a bit of an afterthought, but even there, he got a sort of nice send-off, as we discovered that he’d been lying low for years with his family, but was unable to adequately provide for them- aka find enough people who “deserved” to be killed in order to drain them of their blood and bring it back home to Alex and Holden. So, he opted to return to LA, where such folks were in high supply, only to find himself shot and killed by the police, right outside the Cortez- but not within its walls, unfortunately.

As such, John was only able to visit the hotel one night a year- the famed Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween. This was a bittersweet ending for John, and actually made me care a little more for him than I had all season since the somewhat obvious revelation that he was the Ten Commandments Killer in the first place.

Early on, we at least had the fact that his son had been missing for years to sympathize with him over, but once that was dealt with and it was revealed he was the killer, I didn’t really care what happened to him. Remarkably, this episode managed to pull precisely that off, by reuniting him with his entire family- including an all-grown-up Scarlett- only to find out that it was just for one night, and always would be. There’s a wonderfully melancholic near-mythological sense to that ending that made John’s tale poignant in an unexpected way, just as I thought I didn’t care anymore, so once again, well-done.

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Hell, even the seemingly hopeless Sally got her happy ending, as Iris showed her how to connect with the outside world via the Internet, and she was finally able to flourish as a human being would in the modern age, making bona fide friends and supporters online the likes of which she’d never experienced before.

That was a nice touch with her recording a song called “Track Marks on my Heart,” which so moved people, it inspired a slew of online covers, which was really sweet. All of this was great and combined made for one of the better finales the show has ever had- perhaps the best since the first season.

Yes, there were the occasional time-wasters, as per usual, notably with Paulson reprising her role as Billie Dean Howard for Season One, which didn’t really add much to the proceedings beyond yet another connection to a previous season. Although, for one amusing moment, I did think that Iris had gone the extra mile and given Sally one hell of a modern makeover, lol, so there was that.

Aside from that, which I don’t think was intended, the whole psychic thing really only served to help communicate the fact that Tristan was indeed still in the building, but didn’t want to communicate with Liz as of yet. Beyond that, it was sort of meh, despite Paulson’s best efforts in the subsequent scenes of her filming BDH’s psychic show on the premises and running afoul of the serial killers’ annual dinner party.

Ditto the opening bit with the hotel reviewers, which, aside from some amusing lines here and there- notably Iris’ wry observation that if “the ghosts keep killing the guests, we’re gonna have zero stars,” as in a positive rating for the hotel online- was also sort of pointless. The line of the night, however, had to be when Sally called March out for telling her and Drake to stop killing, comparing it to “Colonel Sanders telling us to stop eating chicken” and March, with a completely straight-face, and priceless delivery, replied: “I’m not familiar with your military friend and his fondness for poultry.” Now that was some funny stuff.

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It must be said, I’m not normally a huge fan of Evan Peters, at least not since his emotional turn on Season One, but he crushed it this season, in what will absolutely go down as one of the most memorable characters in the show’s entire history. He was truly one of the show’s MVPs this season, to be sure. Who’d have thought it? He certainly had some of the best lines, and his delivery was spot-on, despite my wondering if that nutty accent was going to work in the long run. Well, not only did it grow on me, it became one of the things I most looked forward to this season, and consistently put a smile on my face every time.

Also worth a mention was Lady Gaga’s already award-winning performance as the Countess. Love her or hate her, it was undeniably an indelible performance that showed that there might just be a future for her in this acting thing after all, if that whole music thing doesn’t pan out. Did she deserve to win a Golden Globe for it, especially given her lofty competition? That was more debatable, but it was nonetheless a solid enough turn that, at the very least, deserved the attention it got. And, though it was to be expected, let it never be said that she didn’t look fabulous throughout, not to mention arguably as sexy as she’s ever been.

But when all was said and done, this was O’Hare’s season, and he totally owned it as Liz Taylor. I’m a bit shocked he didn’t land a GG nod of his own, but maybe the Emmys will make up for it later on in the awards season. Whatever the case, he did a bang-up job with the role all around and was easily my favorite thing in the entire season. I think the character will go down as one of the best in the show’s history, by far. One can only hope Liz will be back, on down the line somewhere.

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All in all, though spotty and meandering at times, this was a vast improvement over the scattershot last season, “Freak Show,” as well as the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink “Asylum.” And, as much as I adored “Coven,” there’s no denying that this season was infinitely more moving than that fun-but-admittedly-slight season. On the whole, I’d have to say it was on a par with the first season, in terms of emotional impact. I might have enjoyed “Coven” more overall, but “Hotel” was pretty damn solid, I must say.

What did you think of “American Horror Story: Hotel”? Who was your favorite character? How about your least favorite? Did you feel that the good stuff outweighed the bad overall? What did you think of the finale? Did you have a favorite scene? What would have made it better for you personally? Was there something that wasn’t addressed that you wish they had? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next season!